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Coultas forced to hop to it to play short

Coultas forced to hop to it to play short

June 19, 2005|by BOB PARSILITI

There are few things more challenging than playing shortstop for a professional baseball team.

But for Hagerstown Suns Ryan Coultas, the position comes with a difficulty factor attached.

Hot shots and split-second decisions are all about playing the position between second and third base, but bounces, well, that's a different story.

Coultas learned that playing short is also a vertical game during the recent Lake County series at Municipal Stadium. In three consecutive games, all in critical situations, his reflexes were tested by bad-hop grounders.

All three balls were medium-hop bouncers that caught the lip where the infield turf meets the dirt. Each caused an eight-foot hop that brought Coultas out of his fielding crouch into a leap to catch the ball.

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"You usually have to be ready for bad hops," Coultas said. "I don't know what it is. The field is so old, you don't know when was the last time it was grated."

The first came on June 8 in the fourth inning when Coultas stood at the ready for Chris Gimenez's leadoff grounder. The ball hit the lip and jumped high. A startled Coultas jumped up to grab the ball, but it fell out of his glove for an error. The play opened the door for four Lake County runs in a 12-2 loss.

The next night, Coultas got put to the fire with two outs and the bases loaded in the seventh after the Captains had taken a 4-3 lead. Coultas got another high hop off Matt Whitney's grounder, but Coultas leaped and snagged it to record the out at first and get the Suns out of the inning.

"I had practice on that one," Coultas said. "The minute it was hit, the one from yesterday popped into my head."

With a 1-1 record against the Municipal Stadium field, Coultas won the rubber game of the match on June 10. Coultas anticipated the hop on Brian Finigan's grounder and turned it into a double play to end the fourth inning.

Road, sweet, road


Dante Brinkley is one of the best hitters the Suns have to offer.

But Hagerstown's fans have never seen the left fielder at his best.

Brinkley ranks second in the South Atlantic League with a .361 batting average, but he has done the bulk of his damage away from Municipal Stadium.

It's a case of what you see is what you hit.

"Hitting at home is different," Brinkley said recently. "In the first couple of innings, there are shadows around the plate and at the pitchers' mound. It's tough to see the ball coming out of the sun. Against left-handed pitching, the ball looks like it is coming out of the Callas and Bud Lite (both light colored) and it's tough to pick up."

Brinkley is 25-for-81 at Municipal Stadium for a .309 average that most players wouldn't sneeze at. He also has three of his four triples and four of his nine home runs at home, but he has a slugging percentage of .592, 25 points lower than his season total.

On the road, it's a different story. Brinkley is 41-for-103 away from Municipal Stadium, a .398 batting average. He has eight doubles and 33 walks while recording in 23 of his 35 RBI.

Milestones


·: Selected - Mike Carp and Grant Psomas were selected by the South Atlantic League to participate in All-Star Home Run Derby as part of All-Star festivities on June 28 in Augusta, Ga.

Carp is tied for second in the league in homers and leads the Suns with 46 RBI. Psomas is hitting .317 with 14 homers and 35 RBI.

Also participating in the Derby are Lexington's Hunter Pence, the league's home run leader, Greensboro's Brett Carroll and Lakewood's Sam Orr for the North. The South team will feature Asheville's Joe Koshansky and Matt Miller, Charleston's Tim Battle and Ben Jones and Kannapolis' David Cook.

·: Nominated - Twelve players listed on the Major League All-Star ballot are former Hagerstown Suns - First basemen Jay Gibbons, Orioles; Craig Wilson, Pittsburgh; Second base: Orlando Hudson, Toronto; Shortstop Mike Young, Texas; Cesar Izturus, Los Angeles Dodgers; Felipe Lopez, Cincinnati; designated hitter: Josh Phelps, Tampa Bay; outfielders Casey Blake, Cleveland; Steve Finley, Los Angeles Angels; Alex Rios, Toronto; Shannon Stewart, Minnesota; Vernon Wells, Toronto.

The week ahead


It starts all over for the Suns this week.

After playing the final game of the first half today, the Suns will open the second half on Tuesday with a four-game set at Lakewood. Hagerstown closes the week with a two-game set with Lexington, starting on Saturday.

The Suns will feature the second half of their 25th anniversary cap giveaway today, commemorating the Toronto Blue Jays era. Fathers and their children will also be allowed to play catch on the field.

Hagerstown will give away 25th anniversary T-shirts on Saturday and Sunday the Suns will honor four Neighorhood Heroes before having a super soaker Sunday along with the world's longest slip-n-slide.




Bob Parasiliti covers the Hagerstown Suns for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2310, or by e-mail at bobp@herald-mail.com

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